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You must watch this pair of free motorsport films

Le Mans and the TT are the stars of these short, punchy documentaries

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In the early days of lockdown, we published a list of ten must-see racing documentaries. Now, based on the fact a) you’ve had a lot of free time on your hands since and b) most of them need to be purchased in one form or another, I thought I’d share a couple more that are completely free to view. And at under an hour each, easily slotted into a lunchtime/extended tea’n’biscuit break.

Both are shamelessly frank about the danger that makes motorsport so exciting, but both have rib-shakingly comic moments too. First up, we’ve got 24 Hours at Le Mans on the BBC’s iPlayer service.

“Danger is certain, death is probable, but for most people the next 24 hours will be one long picnic.” It sounds like the trailer for a cannibalistic B-movie, but it’s actually a line from the incredibly verbose opening of this vintage TV documentary from 1982, back when tellies were square.

There’s a handful of moments where it’s clearly ‘of its age’, not least its use of the phrase “urgent lovemaking” very early on and a brief glimpse of nudity at the 37-minute mark. But get past those and there’s sublime period footage – including an onboard run down the Mulsanne Straight before it was littered with chicanes – and even more sublime period moustaches.

Its highlights are numerous, but include a glimpse at pre-laptop race telemetry, a gaggle of perhaps the coolest pace cars ever, not one but two musical montages, much oversteer and many M1 Procars. And while you’re on iPlayer, you can also check out the documentary film Steve McQueen – The Man and Le Mans, though for a more limited time than the film above.

If you aren’t in iPlayer territory, then Religion of Sports – The Space Between is available for free on YouTube. A 56-minute documentary about the Isle of Man TT, it’s much newer – filmed in 2018 – and aims to explain just why its racers are so hopelessly addicted to an event that’s ruthlessly robbed them of friends.

“Every year, thousands put their lives on the line to compete in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, in the hopes of earning the top spot,” reads the bumf. “They reflect on what draws them to this race and why, despite the many deaths that have occurred at the hands of the race, why they continue to enter the race.”

Prepare to have goosebumps for the full hour. And possibly another hour afterwards. The cinematography is plain beautiful and I’d argue this is a better, more disarmingly honest demonstration of the TT’s highs and lows than even the lauded Closer to the Edge feature film of 2011. There’s plenty to chuckle at – it’s actually not that dark – and it’s worth watching purely to ogle the glorious TT-themed stained glass windows of St. Ninian’s church.

So, another two racing documentaries to while away some of lockdown. Any recommendations of your own? Please share them below…

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